Freshman Austin Rauch went to nationals for high jump on March 8 and achieved sixth place overall. Rauch competed in both indoor and outdoor events for the Prairie Fire track and field team. Rauch broke the Knox high jump record and won the Newcomer of the Year award for the Midwest Conference which is given to one student per year.
The 2019 All American’s exploits in track helped to build the notoriety of Knox Athletics.
“Any time you have an athlete that reaches the national level and then does well at the national level, that’s a whole other accolade,” Athletic Director Daniella Irle said.
With track and field looking to hire a new head coach sometime this spring, the success of not only Rauch, but the other members of the team, makes the job more enticing.
“Having his caliber of athlete along with the other athletes, that helps us. That makes us all better and is also very attractive for new coaches and other recruits,” said Irle.
As big an accomplishment as placing sixth in nationals and being named an All-American is, it’s not something that Rauch thought would be attainable so quickly.
“It was a goal this year, but I didn’t know how achievable it would be. It was kind of a surprise,” Rauch said.
Rauch is a person who thrives on competition and hard work. His hard work has translated into his own personal accolades. That can serve as motivation for the rest of the team according to Irle.
“It shows other people in the program that they can do this too. If [they] work hard, [they] can do that. It’s motivational for everyone around you,” Irle said.
Irle has a different analogy to describe Rauch and the rest of the track team.
“I use the analogy when the tide rises, all boats rise. Well, Austin rose the tide for us. And we had some other athletes that had good years for us; they raised the tide for us. The more people we have doing that, the better our department as a whole gets,” Irle said.
Athletes or people who achieve success can often lose track of who they are. Well, Rauch is an athlete who cares about people’s perception of him and knows about the negative connotation of being called a “jock.”
“That’s just a part of who I am because I don’t want to give the impression of oh, ‘he’s a jock, he’s a jerk’ we can’t talk to him. I want to be approachable, and I want people to feel like I’m not any better than them, I’m just another person,” Rauch said.
Irle had some good sentiments to say regarding Rauch’s character as an athlete, student and person.
“Austin’s a fantastic young man; he works hard. He has a great spirit, he’s all in,” Irle said.
Irle referred to Rauch with a term she’s recently coined: “scholar-athlete.”
“They call us student-athletes, but I like to call us scholar-athletes because we aren’t students at an ordinary college. We’re students at a very challenging and what I consider to be a high-end academic school,” Irle said.
Rauch will look to ride his momentum from the indoor season as he transitions into the outdoor season, which started March 20. In the Knox College Open that Knox held on March 30, Rauch won the men’s high jump portion of the event and finished first in long jump. Rauch is very excited for the outdoor season and all of its possibilities and he’s wasting no time honing his outdoor prowess.
“I’ve always liked outdoor better, just because indoor you’re in such a confined space and it’s too loud for me. I like to be off doing my own thing without all of the people around. I’m ready for outdoor season,” Rauch said.
The All American will be participating in high jump and long jump for sure with the possibility of running and throwing. It’s exciting to see how Rauch will do in the outdoor season, but if the indoor season is an indicator of what’s to come, then expect Rauch to do some great things.